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Your Ultimate Cruise Guide

U.K. Theme Cruises

Are you fascinated by photography, inspired by culinary stars, or an avid ballroom dancer or fitness buff? Then chances are quite good that there's a cruise with your name on it. Hobbyists cruises, in which lines and organizers offer planned activities in a breathtaking span of options -- which include tracking wildlife, indulging in Titanic-mania, vineyard-hopping to wine tastings and more -- are on the rise.

Themed cruises are more popular than ever, with a notable number of cruise virgins opting for them as an incentive to try a cruise. They may be worried about feeling trapped or isolated onboard, unable to relate to the seasoned cruiser, so a chance to immerse themselves in their passion with like-minded people can help them embrace a new type of vacation.

Before booking, be sure to research what type of theme cruise would suit you. The choices vary. You could opt for a block booking of cabins by a fan group, a series of lectures and workshops organised by the cruise line or even a full-ship charter, in which activities are fully centered on that trip's theme. The difference could mean anything from a diversion to keep your interest for a few hours a day to an all-encompassing adventure. As complements, all of these offer the usual in-port adventures.

This year's offerings are as dynamic as ever. From nude river cruises to radio soap operas, cruise operators and specialist holiday firms have something for everyone. Below is a selection of what is on offer for 2013, but please come and look again, as we will be updating the content on a regular basis. (And if you want us to include a trip that is not on the list, don't hesitate to contact us by e-mailing editor@cruisecritic.co.uk.)



Food and Wine Cruises

The Theme: Experience the vibrant cuisines of France and Spain with Windstar Cruises.

Dates: 1st September 2015.

Details: Set sail from London and take in the culinary delights of the western coasts of France and Spain as Windstar Cruises offers you this chance to taste the specialities of France and Spain. Aboard Windstar's newest, and as yet un-launched ship the Star Legend, you will leave Dover harbour and take in the sights, smells and tastes of bustling towns such as St-Malo, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, El Ferrol and Porto before finally reaching your goal, Portugal's capital Lisbon. Along the way you will able to sample some of the world's best seafood, delicious fortified wines such as Port and delicious tapas. Along the route of your cruise there are a vast array of culinary treats and trips waiting for you to enjoy. Enjoy a guided tour through some of the finest cellars in Bordeaux dating back to 1330 and see the creation of the famed red wine, and turn your hand to the Portuguese art of filigree. Visit Portugal's first capital city of Guimaraes and take in the cities magnificent castle, cobbled streets and rich array of art, tapestries and furniture. Or explore the culinary and political history of Porto, and find out all about the wine which bears its name. A cruise full of fantastic flavours, sights and experiences this is a must for all foodies.

Caveat: Sturdy shoes are a must for walking Guimaraes' cobbled streets!



The Theme: Enjoy the beers of Austria with Avalon Waterways.

Dates: 9th October 2015.

Details: This cruise is a fantastic chance to enjoy the peaceful waterways and superb beers of the river Danube with Avalon Waterways beer tasting cruise. Aboard the comfortable and well appointed Avalon Expression you will sail the Danube from the Austrian capital of Vienna with its grand imperial architecture and imposing St Stephan's Cathedral and head west until you reach the characterful German city of Munich. You will walk the streets of Vienna guided by knowledgeable experts who will immerse you in the culture and history of the city, see the famed Lipizzaner horse of the Spanish Riding School, sample fine local wines at the town of Dürnstein-Melk where you will see the ruins of Richard the Lionheart's medieval prison and even visit the spectacular fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein, a romantic folly built high in German's Bavarian Alps. Along the way you will also be accompanied by expert brewers and tasters of fine beer, who will teach you all about the local's favourite tipples, as well as providing you with many of the regions famous beers. Throw in a visit to one of Munich's famed Biergarten's and this trip becomes a beer lovers dream, as well as a fantastic way to indulge in the beautiful landscape of the Danube.

Caveat:Book well in advance to insure you gain a place on the exclusive beer cruise.



The Theme: Explore Latin America in the company of Crystal Cruises Food and Drink festival.

Dates: 14th February 2016.

Details: The coastline of South America is a beautiful and varied place, and now Crystal Cruises offers you the chance to see it in all its glory, from the comfort of your cabin surrounded by the delicacies of the Crystal Wine and Food Festival. While aboard the Crystal Symphony you will sail from the beautiful city of Valparaíso in Chile, famed for its flowers and vibrancy, all the way up the western coast of South America, passing through the Panama Canal before traversing the Caribbean and reaching the sundrenched city of Miami. You will be able to head ashore and enjoy the immersive beauty of the Caribbean, from the sweltering heat of the rainforests, to the idyllic white sands of the island of Jamaica. Crystal Cruises will also treat you with a food themed festival while aboard, meaning you can while away your evenings in this tropical paradise in true luxury, with renowned chefs, sommeliers and culinary experts travelling with you to create a memorable food experience. A rare chance to discover a fascinating facet of the world and delicious cuisine, this cruise is not to be missed.

Caveat: Remember to pack your formal evening wear to participate fully in the ship's evening meals



Sport Cruises

The Theme: Explore the coastline and golf courses of great Britain with Crystal Cruises.

Dates: 25th July 2015.

Details: In a round trip setting sail from London's historic port, this cruise offers you the chance to take in the rugged and wild coastline of the United Kingdom. From the Channel Islands to Waterford, Holyhead to Greenock, Dublin to Portland, this cruise will shine a light into every nook and cranny of this remarkable coastline, allowing you to see these islands from a rare perspective. What is more, while aboard the Crystal Serenity you will be able to enjoy Crystal Cruises Golf theme pack, allowing you to step ashore and enjoy some of the world's finest golf courses, all in the company of PGA experts who will chat and help you hone your game. For when you're off the golf course there are many shore excursions for you to enjoy. Travellers can visit the historic Tower of London, see the Channel Islands from a speeding RIB, play a round of gold at Waterford's Faithlegg Golf Course and visit the Jameson's Distillery and Guinness Brewery in Dublin. This cruise gives travellers a chance to experience the many varied dimensions of British culture, cuisine, sport and history, and is not to be missed!

Caveat: Remember to dress appropriately for the UK's top golf courses to avoid disappointment.



Nature and Ecology Cruises

The Theme: Explore the Northwest Passage with Crystal Cruises.

Dates: 16th August 2016.

Details: In a real must for nature and history lovers alike, Crystal Cruises is offering you the chance to step aboard their expedition to the legendary Northwest Passage, and retrace the footsteps of famed explorers throughout history. Aboard the Crystal Serenity you will set out from Anchorage in Alaska, and take to the frigid but stunning waters of the Beaufort Sea, winding your way through glaciers and icebergs to your ultimate destination, new York City. Along the way you will see rare wildlife, take part in expedition days out into the wild ocean all the while being kept in the lap of luxury. The range of excursions available on this cruise is vast and varied, and they are sure to provide excitement and adventure to all travellers. Set sail on a 48 foot yacht out of Anchorage to spot whales, or visit the Russian settlement on Kodiak Island. Play a relaxing day of gold at Kebo Valley Golf club or hike Gorham Mountain, retrace the steps of America's Revolutionary hero's in Boston or enjoy exclusive meals in New York City. From wild and rugged to calm and sophisticated, this cruise has something to offer everyone from adventurous to historians, as well as giving you a chance to see the beautiful and mysterious Northwest Passage.

Caveat:Remember to pack warmly for the frozen waters of the Beaufort Sea!



The Theme: Experience the history and nature of the Arctic as you explore the footsteps of Franklin.

Dates: August 16th 2015.

Details: Take to the beautiful and savage waters of the Arctic Circle and the frigid Canadian north as you trace the doomed but famed footsteps of explorer John Franklin and his quest for the Northwest Passage. Setting sail aboard Quark Cruise's sturdy Sea Explorer you will make your way from the rugged coast of Greenland, visiting ancient homesteads, vast fjords and hikes across the wild tundra, and up to the Canadian island of Cobourg where you will seek out illusive Polar Bears and other beautiful creatures. From there you will sail to the Canadian city of Toronto where you will spend your final night of the trip enjoying the vibrant urban atmosphere after two weeks in the wilds. Along the route of the cruise you will have the opportunity to enjoy numerous varied excursions and trips which will make this cruise a truly memorable one. You will visit majestic glaciers, and maybe even witness a calving, the birth of a new glacier from the mother, you will witness demonstrations of traditional kayaks as well as watch the rich and varied wildlife of these frozen seas. At Lancaster Sound and Leopold Island you will see huge seabird colonies, a Canadian Mounted Police base as well as the sombre but powerful gravesite of Franklin's expedition. With the recent discovery of HMS Investigator, one of the ships sent out to search for Franklin the expedition has returned to the public spotlight, and this cruise is a once in a lifetime chance to appreciate the beauty and wildness of Arctic exploration.

Caveat: Remember that this cruise is a real adventure in a wild environment, and delays due to weather should be expected and taken in stride.



Arts and Crafts Cruises

The Theme: Enjoy the cultural variety of the Danube this AMAWaterways Celebration of Life cruise.

Dates: 28th October 2015.

Details: Explore the rich and vibrant culture of the River Danube, as you celebrate the variety of life and help to raise awareness of Breast Cancer. As you make your way from elegant and lively Budapest to the German city of Munich you will call at such cultural capitals as Bratislava, Vienna and Passau, famous names in the fields of art and music. What is more you can experience the richness of central Europe and help to combat Breast Cancer, as for every state room that is booked aboard the AmaSonata , $500 will be donated to help raise awareness, aid treatment and research into further treatment of the disease. While you are afloat on the mighty Danube, you will have a vast array of shore excursions to choose from to further enrich this already jam packed cruise. Take in St Stephan's Basilica and Buda Castle and great Imperial architecture in Budapest, enjoy an evening of Viennese wine and music, as well as visiting the cities majestic Opera House and even attend a concert of the works of Mozart and Strauss. Enjoy an excursion to Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace, or even celebrate “Oktoberfest” in Passau, a tradition German celebration of the finest beers. A chance to experience Europe's finest culture, and do good at the same time, this cruise is a once in a life time opportunity.

Caveat: Remember to pack your formal evening wear to participate fully in the trips musical evenings!



The Theme: See the artistic wonders of France with Avalon Waterways.

Dates: 28 July 2015

Details: Impressionism, one of the most influential periods of artistic development, was pioneered in France, where the landscapes, the people and the politics helped form a new way of looking at things and appreciating what art is. This cruise, aboard the Avalon Creativity, gives passengers the opportunity to sail the Seine, taking in the Musee d'Orsay and the Musee Marmottan Monet, as well as some of the Normandy villages and historic locations that inspired some of the most famous paintings of all time.

Caveat:Other dates for this cruise feature different themes. Make sure to book on the art theme crusie.



Music Cruises

Dance Cruises

History and World Affairs Cruises

TV, Film and Radio Cruises

The Theme: Stars of classic British comedies perform and reminisce on Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Dates: 24 October 2015

Details: Stars from the much-loved vintage comedies Only Fools And Horses, 'Allo 'Allo, and He-De-Hi join a “Cruise of a Laugh-Time” this autumn with Cruise & Maritime Voyages. John Challis and Sue Holderness -- better known as Boycie and Marlene -- will be onboard the Marco Polo together with Sue Hodge, who played saucy French waitress Mimi Labonq, and Jeffrey Holland of Spike Dixon fame. The popular TV actors will be performing their own stage shows, telling behind-the-scene stories, and answering Q&As about their time on the classic British sit-coms. The six-night cruise sails from Tilbury on 24th October and calls at Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rouen and Honfleur in an itinerary that takes in the Nordsee Canal, River Scheldt and River Seine. Prices start at £349 per person with two sharing and ocean view cabins from £449 per person. Lovely jubbly!



Fitness and Wellness Cruises

The Theme: Wellbeing spa holiday aboard Costa Cruises

Dates: Multiple cruises on selected Costa ships in 2015.

Details: Everyone knows that the sea air is good for you, but Costa Cruises has gone one further with the introduction of their health and wellness cruises, aimed at giving passengers the full spa treatment to make their holiday that bit more relaxing. Passengers can book a place on the Wellness programme aboard the Costa Mediterranea or the Costa Atlantica, while passengers traveling on the Costa Magica, Costa Fortuna, Costa Victoria, and Costa Classica can also partake in therapeutic ‘Harmony and Relaxation' treatments. Guests can also visit the exclusive Samsara Spas aboard selected ships.

Caveat: Watch out for treatments that cost extra or that aren't included under the wellness package.



The Theme: Relax and Rejuvenate with MSC Cruises

Dates: Multiple cruises on selected MSC Cruises' ships in 2015.

Details: MSC Cruises want you to have a more balanced experience aboard their ships and are encouraging passengers to replenish both their bodies and their minds in one of their onboard Aurea spas. There are a number of packages for people looking to incorporate the spa experience more fully into their cruise. Passengers on the MSC Divina, MSC Splendida, MSC Fantasia, MSC Magnifica, MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra and the MSC Musica, can enjoy a Wellness package for two, including massages and special treatments, while single gentlemen or ladies travelling on these ships can consider a male or female only spa experience.

Caveat: Be careful to keep an eye on what treatments are included under the spa packages and remember that extra treatments may cost extra.



Other Themes

The Theme: Enjoy the splendour of a ship's inaugural voyage with Windstar Cruises.

Dates: 25th May 2015.

Details: Experience the glamour and majesty of a ships maiden cruise, as Windstar Cruises invites you aboard the first voyage of the latest addition to their fleet, the elegant Star Legend. As the ship makes its way from the Eternal City of Rome to Barcelona you will have numerous opportunities to experience all of the extravagance of the golden age of cruising, with welcoming parties, deck top gala's and continuing festivities throughout your cruise. You will also be welcomed to the Star Legend's opulent christening ceremony as a guest of Windstar Cruises, as you celebrate the start of this ships new career. As you sail through the Mediterranean, calling at such ports as Portofino, Sanary-sur-Mer and Monte Carlo, you will be able to add many shore excursions to your trip in order to further enrich your cruise, and see in the Star Legend in style. Step ashore on the beautiful island of Elba and visit the Napoleon Museum, giving you a glimpse into the Emperors exile, or sample wines at his favourite vineyard. Take hiking trips around the port of Portofino, or visit the magnificent walled city of Carcassonne. For a cruise filled with Mediterranean sun and glamour you need look no further.

Caveat:Book your preferred shore excursions well in advance to insure you avoid disappointment!



The Theme: Murder Mysteries on the High Seas

Dates: Various dates throughout 2015

Details: Whodunit Productions will be stepping onboard a variety of Royal Caribbean ships to bring a sense of mystery and intrigue to your cruise. With comical shows and performances, you will have the chance to solve murder mysteries at sea. This is not one for the meek, as you will be given your own character to play. All cruises leave from America and are priced in U.S. dollars.

--by Joshua Thomas, Cruise Critic U.K. Contributor

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